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Flight attendant helps save flamingo eggs in flight

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications
Photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Last week, we shared the poll results from a public naming of a Chilean flamingo chick at Woodland Park ZooMagdalena was the winnerRead on for the rest of this "awww" inspiring story involving a resourceful Alaska Airlines Flight Attendant and a flamingo chick now called Sunny!

The winning name, Magdalena, was chosen through an online poll of names representing national parks in Patagonia, a main region where Chilean flamingos live. The other choices in the naming poll were Torres, Lauca and Patagonia. 

Magdalena was among six flamingo eggs from Zoo Atlanta that a Woodland Park Zoo animal keeper transported from Atlanta to Seattle via Alaska Airlines; however, the portable incubator protecting the eggs had stopped functioning. The eggs would have perished during the five-hour flight if not for the quick thinking by a flight attendant named Amber May. 

Amber May meets the flamingo chicks she helped save as eggs on her flight!

Responding to the animal keeper’s plea for help, May promptly filled rubber gloves with warm water which the keeper used as a makeshift nest to keep the eggs warm; May continued to supply water-filled gloves as needed throughout the entire flight. To provide extra insulation for the eggs, passengers seated nearby gave up their coats and scarves.

“In my 10 years of flying, the request to help save flamingo eggs was one of the strangest I’ve ever received,” said Alaska Airlines Flight Attendant Amber May. “I’m honored to have had the opportunity to help and I’m happy that all six chicks hatched successfully!”

May and her granddaughter Sunny meet the flamingo chicks at Woodland Park Zoo.

Woodland Park Zoo made a request to Zoo Atlanta for the eggs because of its aging flamingo flock that is no longer breeding. “The flamingo eggs would not have survived in a non-functioning portable incubator for five hours,” said Joanna Klass, an animal care manager at Woodland Park Zoo. “We’re so grateful for the creative thinking that led to the safe transport of our precious eggs. We’re also touched by the compassion that other passengers showed to help safeguard the eggs.”

Woodland Park Zoo invited May to name one of the male flamingo chicks, which she named Sunny, in honor of her infant granddaughter, Sunny. May and the chick’s namesake were invited to the zoo for a meet ‘n’ greet with Sunny and the flamingo care staff.

The six flamingos hatched last September at Woodland Park Zoo: four females—Magdalena, Amaya, Rosales, and Gonzo; and two males—Sunny and Bernardo. Friends of the zoo, Glen and Susan Beebe, named Bernardo.

As part of the flamingos’ wellness program, the animal keepers take the chicks on daily walks throughout the zoo to stretch and strengthen their legs. The chicks will soon join the zoo’s ambassador animals program, which helps build guests’ empathy for animals and promotes ways to take action for wildlife through engaging, up-close experiences across the zoo. When not in a program, the chicks will live with the zoo’s flock of adult flamingos. 

A similar version of this story can also be found on Alaska Airlines News & Stories.  

Sunny the flamingo chick named by May in honor of her granddaughter.

Fun Flamingo Facts
  • Chilean flamingos have an extensive range throughout much of southern South America in Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Uruguay. 
  • Native South Americans call the flamingo “chogogo,” for the sounds it makes while feeding or flying. 
  • While a group of crows is called a murder and a group of geese a gaggle, a group of flamingos is called a flamboyance! 
  • Hours before hatching, flamingo chicks begin vocalizing within the egg—this establishes a bond with their parents so they can locate each other in a flock of thousands! 
Become a Digital ZooParent by adopting a Chilean flamingo. The ZooParent program supports the zoo’s animal care, education and wildlife conservation efforts in the Pacific Northwest and around the world.